Cesarean delivery (C-section) is used to deliver a baby through surgical incisions made in the abdomen and uterus.
Planning for a C-section might be necessary if there are certain pregnancy complications. Women who have had a C-section might have another C-section. Often, however, the need for a first-time C-section is’ clear until after labor starts.
Why it’s done
- Labor isn’t progressing normally. Labor that isn’t progressing (labor dystocia) is one of the most common reasons for a C-section. Issues with labor progression include a prolonged first stage (prolonged dilation or opening of the cervix) or a prolonged second stage (prolonged time of pushing after complete cervical dilation).
- The baby is in distress. Concern about changes in a baby’s heartbeat might make a C-section the safest option.
- The baby or babies are in an unusual position. A C-section is the safest way to deliver babies whose feet or buttocks enter the birth canal first (breech) or babies whose sides or shoulders come first (transverse).
- You’re carrying more than one baby. A C-section might be needed for women carrying twins, triplets, or more. This is especially true if labor starts too early or the babies are not in a head-down position.
- There’s a problem with the placenta. If the placenta covers the opening of the cervix (placenta previa), a C-section is recommended for delivery.
- Prolapsed umbilical cord. A C-section might be recommended if a loop of umbilical cord slips through the cervix in front of the baby.
- There’s a health concern. A C-section might be recommended for women with certain health issues, such as a heart or brain condition.
- There’s a blockage. A large fibroid blocking the birth canal, a pelvic fracture or a baby who has a condition that can cause the head to be unusually large (severe hydrocephalus) might be reasons for a C-section.
- You’ve had a previous C-section or other surgery on the uterus. Although it’s often possible to have a vaginal birth after a C-section, a healthcare provider might recommend a repeat C-section.
Some women request C-sections with their first babies. They might want to avoid labor or the possible complications of vaginal birth. Or they might want to plan the time of delivery.